Monday, February 15, 2010

Jack Ingram Acoustic Motel Tour @ Joe's

If you ask anyone that is really into Texas music to name some of the best albums in Texas music, Jack Ingram's Acoustic Motel record often gets named as one of the best, Just Jack and his guitar. Joe's bar was the intimate setting revisiting those days and more on a "Acoustic Motel" tour that took Jack to audiences like here in Chicago, Minneapolis and New York state. Joe's bar set up candle lit tables and the stage was set up with a couple of couches for fans to sit on behind Jack if they got the nerve to jump up there and be in the spotlight. After the first few people dared to do it it wasn't so hard for a few other groups to take their place and take turns in one of the best seats in the house only a few feet from Jack. Starting off with a song he said he was doing lately, a Patty Griffin song called "When it don't come Easy" and he does a fantastic rendition of it. Jack also has a song on his most recent album "Big Dreams and High Hopes" with Patty called "Seeing Stars" which he did later on in the show. Its a great song that should have received much more airplay than it did. The second song he played was the title to his "Hey You" album from 1999. Following that up with His song "Biloxi" about how his father often wasn't around when he was growing up and he stated "I wrote that song when i was 25 years old, before i got married, now i am married and i re-thought that song a little bit, then i had a couple kids and i thought well man maybe my dad wasn't such an asshole after all, probably doing the best he could under some pretty intense circumstances" he then said that around that time he found another song, which was a song that his friend Radney Foster sent him one day after he had heard "Biloxi" and thought of him. He sent a shout out to Chicago's US99 radio saying that if you listen to them you probably heard this song and he played "Measure of a Man" and after that song Jack said "I couldn't help but notice that after i mentioned Houston and Texas that i got an audible response" and he said "I'm from Texas too" and he preceded to talk about high school football and played the song "Great Divide" off the "This is it" album. Next he said "I got a daughter at home, her name is Ava Adele" and he launched into that beautiful song written about her after saying that he used to dislike songs about other people's kids and that he cant get away with playing the song at home because he isn't Hannah Montana.
The night went on with some great stories between the songs that only an acoustic show like this one at Joe's can afford. Shots were being passed to Jack on the stage and beers were consumed, songs were sung and laughs shared. Jack also performed "Make a Wish (coming home again)" and "Seeing Stars" which he said that after having chart success with many songs written by other people that he convinced his record company to let him have a go at it with that song and he said sarcastically said that it shot all the way up to number 56 but adding that he considers any of his songs a hit if they make it into the double digits and passed the triple digits. Jack has a recent release which is the first track on "Big Dreams and High Hopes" that he released at the start of this acoustic tour called "Free" its a perfect springtime and summer rocker written by Jay Knowles and one of my favorite writers, Trent Summar, request it on your local radio, it sounds like a hit. At the end of the show Jack came out to the edge of the stage to sing "Goodnight Moon" without a microphone encouraging everyone to sing along.
Jack studied psychology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and i think some of the songs he chooses or writes have that kind of insight and fascination into the human psyche and when you meet him it seems like he looks at you as if he is trying to read into you a bit and see what your all about. Jack announced that he will be back this summer with his band at Joe's so if you get the chance come to the show you will be entertained because like i have said here before, he is one of the best entertainers in the business and gives it all he's got. Jack is off to Australia in March and then he's on the bill for the "Country Throwdown" tour that will be coming around this spring. Click here for more photos. Some of them will be in the March 15th issue of Country Weekly magazine!

Robert Earl Keen @ Joe's

Back in September or so there was the possibility of Robert coming up to Chicago with Todd Snider and Bruce Robison on their acoustic tour and i was hoping that would happen at Joe's but it ultimately did not so i was thrilled to hear that Robert was coming up in February with his whole amazing band and so was everyone else because the place was packed. Robert Earl Keen is revered by his contemporaries and is someone to look up to if your an aspiring Texas musician. If you want to learn about great songwriting you do not have to look any further than any Robert Earl Keen song. Nearly all of the songs Robert has written since his days of hanging out on the front porch with Lyle Lovett can be used as movie scripts or the basis for a good novel. He packs so much detail and so much character study into his songs that they offer a visual picture in your mind of what the land, the people and the conditions are like that inspired the songs. He may not have lived out each one but trying to figure out which ones he has and has not is not easily done. Trying to write something about Robert Earl can easily take up the whole page and trying to say something that hasn't already been said is nearly impossible so all i can do is write about what i know, which is good advice for songwriters too.Bobby Bare Jr. opened the show for Robert and i have to admit that i just don't get that guy, i have tried, i liked his dad's music but maybe there is just something i'm missing when it comes to him but i heard that the crowd was disrespectful to him and it affected his performance unfortunately but it made me want to have Robert on that stage even more which is actually sometimes a good thing as far as an opening act is concerned because you don't want the openers to be better than the headliner right?
Robert has been in a great mood lately, he's happy and it shows in his stage presence and in his song choices, he dug back all the way to his first self funded independent album "No Kinda Dancer" from 1984 right up to his latest release "The Rose Hotel" on Universal Nashville records. Robert is on a major label but this one seems smart enough not to mess with his creativity so things seem to be going well. Robert has retained his sly sense of humor throughout the years and its as sharp as ever but he can also convey a serious side as good as anyone through some of my favorite songs like "Mariano" and "Shades of Grey" as well as "Flyin Shoes" which is a great cover on his latest album originally done by the great Townes Van Zandt and i was thinking that if Townes were still with us maybe he would play a show at Joe's one day.The crowd seemed to be very familiar with Robert's music and when he mentioned "I always have to play a fishing song after i play a love song" everyone immediately yelled out "Five Pound Bass" and a lot of people seemed to connect with his between songs story telling about life in Texas. Robert lives the life as close as he can and he lives on a working ranch with his wife when he is not on tour so a lot of the Texas borderland and rural Texas experiences come through in his songs.Robert Earl Keen's band is absolutely top notch with Tom Van Schaik on drums, Marty Muse offering up some phrases on the Pedal steel guitar, Bill Whitbeck on Bass and the fantastic playing on lead guitar by Rich Brotherton. Rich has lent his talent to everyone from Eliza Gilkyson to Rich O'Toole and many more as a musician and producer. Bill Whitbeck has contributed to albums by Aaron Watson to Rodney Hayden and also has his own record out called "Radio Caroline" which was released back in November to good reviews. Marty Muse has been featured on many recordings too, ranging from Robbie Fulks to Bruce Robison to Dwight Yoakam and as of 2009 he is working on his own release. Tom Van Schaik was the original drummer with the Dixie Chicks for over 6 years before joining Robert. Each of these guys have their own websites or Myspace sites. Robert came out to sign merchandise for fans and i bought a copy of "Undone" for him to sign and he also signed my hat and that just about completes that one and its about time to start another and i also got to talk with Robert after the show for a while. I would highly recommend "Undone" to anyone who is new to Robert's music or to long time fans because it really puts Robert's songwriting skills on display as each song was chosen by his peers and performed acoustically at a tribute to Robert at the Musicfest in Steamboat Springs Colorado back in 2008. Just like Charlie Robison stated on stage next to Robert at the Musicfest "ive been out hatted by Robert Earl" no one can out hat REK. Click here for more photos from the show at Joes in Chicago.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Stoney LaRue @ Joe's bar

February 5th after Micky & The Motorcars opened the show Stoney LaRue took the stage. What can i say about Stoney LaRue that i haven't already said in writing about him here many times before? He's one of the most infectious and enthusiastic entertainers in Texas music. He is also one of the most talented with one of the best voices in the business. Stoney recently released a live acoustic CD of mostly covers from artists like Mike McClure (Tie My Boat) of The Great Divide a groundbreaking band from Oklahoma and John Hiatt's "Train To Birmingham" as well as a song he co wrote with Mike McClure and Tom Skinner (Love You For Loving Me) that is one of the new songs he's been doing lately. Stoney is also working on a album of all new material, and we have all heard that before but it will happen, just be patient. After seeing Stoney play a few acoustic shows lately i was looking forward to seeing him with his amazing band again and i will just talk about them here right now. His keyboard player Steve Littleton has quite a set up, combining old technology like a Wurlitzer keyboard with a rotary horn speaker with modern technology like today's latest synthesizers. Steve is also a keyboard player in an Austin Texas band called "Live Oak Decline" and Live Oak Decline recorded an album and were talking about recording their second which i'm not sure has been done yet. Jesse Fritz is the bass player for Stoney LaRue, he is responsible for laying down all those funky bass lines like the one in the Mike Hosty song "Oklahoma Breakdown" and he is an avid motorcycle rider often going for rides on his Harley Davidson with Stoney when they are not on the road in a tour bus. Kevin Webb is Stoney's lead guitarist and he's the one who plays that distinctive slide guitar intro on "Oklahoma Breakdown" and he also has various side projects and produces bands now and then. He is from Norman Oklahoma and you can hear some of his cool music on his page. Jeremy Bryant is Stoney LaRue's solid drummer, Jeremy also has lent his talent to various other artists like Mike Mancy on his album "Blue Sky" and he also drums for a band called "Willis Brownstone" a jam band made up of Waco Texas locals including Wade Bowen's bass player Caleb Jones. Jeremy Watkins is the fiddle, mandolin and harmony vocalist for the band. Jeremy also has performed with another fellow Oklahoma singer and songwriter by the name of Travis Linville and back in 2003 Jeremy was involved in an auto accident with Jason Boland heading back to Stillwater Oklahoma, thankfully they both were ok although Jason had to have some major surgery to repair his leg and hip. Stoney and the band played a great set returning for an encore that became a jam session weaving in and out of songs by the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd which really showed off Stoney and his band The Arsenal's love of classic rock.

Micky & The Motorcars @ Joe's

After seeing Micky & The Motorcars for the first time in Steamboat at the Musicfest but only listening to their music occasionally before that i was looking forward to seeing them in Chicago because i think their "Live at Billy Bob's" CD is one of the best live albums i have heard, it just has a great sound, and it was recorded right. After reading the liner notes and credits i found out Adam Odor (Austin recording engineer and mixer) and David Abeyta (Reckless Kelly) and a few others were involved. If you listen to some of the older "Live at Billy Bob's" recordings the sound is often not quite as good as recordings done at other venues so Micky & The Motorcars were aware of this and were able to get around this by bringing in their own crew to record and film this special occasion. Micky & The Motorcars (if you are not familiar with them) consist of Micky Braun on lead vocals and Gary Braun on rhythm guitar and vocals, mandolin and harmonica (you maybe more familiar with two more of the Braun brothers, who are founders of the band Reckless Kelly) other members of the band include Kris Farrow who studied at the Berklee college of Music and also is a very talented Sax player and lead guitarist. Shane Vannerson on drums and Mark McCoy on bass round out the rest of the band.
The band writes their own songs and they also carefully choose songs from their favorite songwriters and their versions fit their style so well that you would have a hard time figuring out who wrote what. Songs by fellow Idaho songwriter and musician Pinto Bennett (Carolina Morning) Austin's own John Dee Graham (Twilight) and co writes with Kevin Welch's son Dustin (Bloodshot) which is one of my favorite songs and Kevin's daughter Savannah who is part of the Trishas also co wrote one (Amber) with Micky. There are also some other covers that they have done live but have not recorded like The Faces "Stay With Me" and Warren Zevon's "Lawyers, Guns and Money" and Todd Snider's "Looking For a Job" help to round out the recording which has 25 songs in total on two discs along with the complete show included on DVD. My only wish is to have the band come back and play a longer headlining show but as openers for Stoney LaRue the crowd was ready for him to take the stage. The Braun family is incredibly talented, Muzzie is the talented father of the family and Kathleen his daughter is also a singer and songwriter and the whole family holds the ever expanding Braun Brothers Reunion music festival in Idaho in August and it is drawing more and more people each year.